As the people at NASA went through a simulation of an asteroid impact, Jim Bridenstine, the administrator warned them to take this imminent real-world danger seriously.
“The Giggle Factor”
At the start of his keynotes at the International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference in College Park, he addressed the dismissive response of the people which has greeted this topic in the past.
He said, “We have to make sure that people understand that this is not about Hollywood, it’s not about movies. This is about ultimately protecting the planet we know, right now, to host life, that is Earth.”
What we have to do
If an asteroid was traveling on its collision course with our planet, what were we to do? In response to this, space agencies will be live-tweeting with a fictional exercise. It will be a simulation of what might happen.
The event of 2013
Bridenstine confessed that after the Chelyabinsk event of 2013, tracking and studying asteroids and other objects near the Earth was taken more seriously. It had resulted in a 20-meter (65 foot) meteor to explode in the atmosphere over a Russian city. The resulting shock wave had caused 1,500 people to seek medical help mostly due to trauma and cuts by broken and flying glass. It had damaged thousand of buildings as well.
“These events aren’t rare; they happen,” Bridenstine stated. He noted a model showing that the Earth might expect to experience another such event of major magnitude every 60 years. In the 20th century, there were three such events – Tunguska event of 1908, Brazil event of 1930.
Bridenstine emphasized that NASA is working towards a goal of achieving a 90 percent accuracy in detecting nearby asteroid that are 140 meters in diameter or larger. An impact of such magnitude would do catastrophic damage, maybe wipe out an entire state or small country.
He reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to its recently announced goal of putting a female astronaut on the surface of the moon by the year 2024, highlighting the importance of the long-delayed Space Launch System in accomplishing the mission.
As the debut of the Space Launch System has been delayed, other commercial rockets like the Falcon 9 by SpaceX has delivered to the expectations and capabilities that was promised by the SLS long ago. But Bridenstine promised that the debut will have a huge role to play in space exploration saying it would be the best vehicle to visit far-off planets like Jupiter’s moon Europa, which might be hosting life in its subsurface ocean.